Sock hops were held as early as 1944 by the American Junior Red Cross to raise funds during World War II. They then became a fad among American teenagers in 1948. Sock hops were commonly held at high schools and other educational institutions, often in the school gym or cafeteria. The term came about because dancers were required to remove their hard-soled shoes to protect the varnished floor of the gymnasium. The music at a sock hop was usually played from vinyl records, sometimes presented by a disc jockey. Occasionally there were also live bands.
In later years, “hops” became strongly associated with the 1950s and early rock and roll. Danny and the Juniors sang “At the Hop” in 1957, which named many popular dances and otherwise documented what happened at a hop. In subsequent decades, with the widespread popularity of sneakers and other types of indoors-only shoes, the practice of removing shoes was dropped. The term then came to be applied more generally to any informal dance for teenagers.
As the pop music market exploded in the late 1950s successive dance fads were commercialized and exploited. From the 1950s to the 1970s new dance fads appeared almost every week. Many were popularized (or commercialized versions of new styles or steps created by African-American dancers who frequented the clubs and discotheques in major U.S. cities like New York, Philadelphia and Detroit.
Among these were the Madison, “The Swim”, the “Mashed Potato”, “The Twist”, “The Frug” (pronounced ‘froog’),”The Watusi”,”The Shake” and “The Hitchhike”.Following the Foxtrot,’60s dance crazes had animal names, including “The Pony”, “The Dog” and “The Chicken” (not to be confused with the later Chicken Dance.
Songs such as “The Loco-Motion” were specifically written with the intention of creating a new dance and many more pop hits, such as “Mash Potato Time” by Dee Dee Sharp, were written to exploit recent successful novelties.
The Watusi is a solo dance that enjoyed brief popularity during the early 1960s. It was one of the most popular dance crazes of the 1960s in the United States. “Watusi” is a former name for the Tursi people of Africa, whose traditions include spectacular dances.
The Pony was a dance made popular in the 1960s by the Chubby Checker song “Pony Time”. The beat is 1&2, 3&4, etc. In the dance the feet are kept comfortably together, while various arm and hand motions are possible. Movement around the dance floor may occur, but there is no line-of-dance. Couples, who generally face each other, do not touch and turns and chase positions are possible.